The Holy Fathers of Orthodox Spirituality


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,



The Orthodox teaching of the Holy Fathers is not something of one age, whether "ancient" or "modern". It has been transmitted in unbroken succession from the time of Christ and His Apostles to the present day, and there has never been a time when it was necessary to discover a "lost" Patristic teaching. Even when many Orthodox Christians may have neglected this teaching (as is the case, for example, in our own day), its true representatives were still handing it down to those who hungered to receive it. There have been great Patristic ages, such as the dazzling epoch of the 4th century, and there have been periods of decline in Patristic awareness among Orthodox Christians; but there has been no period since the very foundation of Christ's Church on earth when the Patristic tradition was not guiding the Church; there has been no century without Holy Fathers of its own. Saint Nicetas Stethatos, disciple, and biographer of Saint Simeon the New Theologian has written; "it has been granted by God that from generation to generation there should not cease the preparation by the Holy Spirit of His prophets and friends for the order of His Church."

Most instructive is it for us, the last Christians, to take guidance and inspiration from the Holy Fathers of our own and recent times, those who lived in conditions similar to our own and yet kept undamaged and unchanged the same ever-fresh teaching, which is not for one time or race, but for all times to the end of the world, and for the whole race of Orthodox Christians.

Before looking at two of the recent Holy Fathers, however, let us make clear that for us, Orthodox Christians, the study of the Holy Fathers is not idle academic exercise. Much of what passes for a "Patristic revival" in our times is scarcely more than a plaything of heterodox scholars and their "Orthodox" imitators, not one of whom has ever "discovered" a Patristic truth for which he was ready to sacrifice his life. Such "Patrology" is only rationalistic scholarship which happens to take Patristic teaching for its subject, without ever understanding that the genuine teaching of the Holy Fathers contains the truths on which our spiritual life or death depends.

"...In his sermon on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Archbishop Theophan, given in 1928 in Varna, Bulgaria, he offers to the faithful "a word on the significance of the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church for us Christians. In what does their greatness consist, and on what does their special significance for us depend? The Church brethren, is the house of the living God, the pillar, and ground of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Christian Truth is preserved in the Church in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, but it requires a correct preservation and a correct interpretation. The significance of the Holy Fathers is to be found precisely in this: that they are the most capable preservers and interpreters of this Truth by virtue of the sanctity of their lives, their profound knowledge of the word of God, and the abundance of the grace of the Holy Spirit which dwells in them." The rest of this sermon is composed of nothing but quotes from the Holy Fathers themselves (Sts. Athanasius the Great, Basil the Great, Simeon the New Theologian, Nicetas Stethatos) to support this view.

"...Archbishop Theophan concludes his Patristic exhortation with this appeal: "Brethren, let this good thought [taking of the Holy Fathers as our guide] be your guiding star also in the days of your earthly pilgrimage on the waves of the sea of life!"

The truth of this appeal, as of the inspired words of Bishop Ignatius, has not dimmed in the decades since they were uttered. The world has gone forth on the path of apostasy from Christian Truth, and it becomes ever more clear that there is no alternative to this path that of following the uncompromising path of Truth which the Holy Fathers have handed down to us.

Yet we must go to the Holy Fathers not merely to "learn about them"; if we do no more than this we are in no better state than the idle disputants of the dead academies of this perishing modern civilization, even when these academies are "Orthodox" and the learned theologians in them neatly define and explain all about "sanctity" and "spirituality" and "theosis," but have not the experience needed to speak straight to the heart of thirsting souls and wound them into the desiring the path of spiritual struggle, nor the knowledge to detect the fatal error of the academic "theologian" who speaks of God with cigarette or wineglass in hand, nor the courage to accuse the apostate...". We must go to the Holy Fathers rather, in order to become their disciples, to receive the teaching of True Life, the soul's of salvation, even while knowing that by doing this we shall lose the favor of this world and become outcasts from it...

"...There is no problem with our own confused times which cannot find its solution by a careful and reverent reading of the Holy Fathers: whether the problem of the sects and heresies that about today, or the schisms and "jurisdictions"; whether the pretense of spiritual life put forth by the "charismatic revival," or the subtle temptations of modern and convenience; whether complex philosophical questions such as "evolution," or the straightforward moral questions of abortion, euthanasia, and "birth control"; whether the refined apostasy of "Sergianism", which offers a church organization in place of the Body of Christ, or the crudeness of "renovationism." (From The Orthodox Word, Vol. 10, pp. 188-195).





On Faith in God

"First of all, believe that there is one God Who created and finished all things, and made all things out of nothing. He alone is able to contain the whole, but Himself cannot be contained. Have faith therefore in Him, and fear Him; and fearing Him, exercise, self-control. Keep these commands, and you will cast away from you all wickedness, and put on the strength of righteousness, and live to God if you keep this Commandment."


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George